Opinion by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Microsoft is playing Windows hardball

Lucky us. Microsoft is no longer supporting older Windows on newer processors.

baseball hardball
Credit: Pixabay

Microsoft really wants all of us on Windows 10. And it's done asking nicely. For many users of Windows 7 and 8.1, upgrade cajolery just morphed into something that looks a lot like upgrade coercion. (It had already tried upgrade trickery.)

I’m sick and tired of this. Windows 10 is OK, but I still prefer Windows 7, thank you very much. I’m not the only one.

The Federal Digital Analytics Program (DAP), which gives the broadest and most accurate reading on operating system popularity, showed in mid-March that Windows 7, with 24.6% percent of all users, is still far more popular than Windows 10, with which sits at 17.3%. Windows 8.x comes in third, with 3.7%. In short, there are still a heck of a lot more Windows 7 and 8.x users than there are Windows 10 users. But Microsoft has made it clear it wants everyone on a single operating system — namely Windows 10.

Sure, Windows 7 will keep getting updates until Jan. 14, 2020 and Windows 8.1 will be supported until Jan. 10, 2023. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you’re running either operating system on a PC with a seventh-generation Intel Kaby Lake processor or an AMD Ryzen Bristol Ridge CPU, your end-of-support date just became … today.

Is that great news or what?

We were warned this was coming. Microsoft told us last year that it wouldn’t keep supporting its older operating systems on AMD’s and Intel’s newest processors. Microsoft also won’t be supporting these operating systems on Qualcomm’s 8996 or newer processes. Adding insult to injury, Microsoft got AMD and Intel to go along with this idea. An Intel spokesperson even said, “No, Intel will not be updating Win 7/8 drivers for 7th Gen Intel Core per Microsoft’s support policy change.”

Thanks, AMD and Intel. We really appreciate you having our backs.

Will Windows 7 and 8 even run on these hot new processors? I don’t know about AMD’s best and brightest, but I’ve had Windows 7 running on Kaby Lake. It runs just fine. There’s only one little problem. When Microsoft finally got around to releasing its latest patches, instead of getting them I got a message saying: “Unsupported Hardware — Your PC uses a processor that isn’t supported on this version of Windows and you won’t receive updates.”

Golly, Microsoft was serious. No soup — ah, old Windows for you!

By the way, this latest patch package? It’s Windows’ largest ever and includes nine — count ’em, nine — critical patches. Thank you so very, very much, Microsoft.

Is it reasonable of me to expect continued support? Well, when I look at Microsoft’s Windows Lifecycle support FAQ, I read, “All desktop operating system products, whether used for personal or business, receive a minimum of 10 years of support (minimum of five years Mainstream Support and minimum of five years Extended Support) at the supported service pack level.”

But the relevant Microsoft Knowledge Base article states, “Because of how this support policy is implemented, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 devices that have a seventh generation or a later generation processor may no longer be able to scan or download updates through Windows Update or Microsoft Update.”

Does anyone else see a little cognitive dissonance here? I see grounds for a lawsuit. If I were running a company that had paid Windows 7 and 8.1 licensing fees to keep getting support for a few more years, I’d be ticked.

I’m not sure what the breakdown is for consumer versus business Windows users. But, given how conservative companies are, I’m sure most Windows corporate users are still running the tried and true Windows 7. Now that Microsoft is rubbing the enterprise’s nose into its refusal to support the most popular operating system on the fastest, newest hardware, I see this backfiring on Microsoft.

Microsoft really, really wants to make Windows 7 and 8.x obsolete. Its customers, however, aren’t ready to let go of them anytime soon.

If Microsoft doesn’t budge on this, I see corporate users giving Chromebooks and the Linux desktop more consideration. After all, neither of them will cut hardware support just to make you “upgrade” when you don’t want to.

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